A few weeks ago I wrote a post that outlined several reasons why Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is a good fit for the majority of travelers: people who don’t always have the luxury of flying on a single preferred carrier or who struggle to fly enough in one year to earn top-tier elite status.
One reason why I enjoy being a MVP Gold member (40,000 miles per year on Alaska Airlines) is the ability to cancel tickets with no penalty and redeposit the funds in my travel bank for later use. I think some blogger has mentioned this already, but in my efforts to provide a Northwest voice and because Poley King reminded me, I should alert you that this and several other benefits on Alaska Airlines will change beginning October 30.
Everyone Gets Refundable Tickets
Alaska will be waiving the change/cancellation fee on all tickets when plans change more than 60 days before departure. This is only for tickets purchased on or after October 30, and it will apply to all passengers regardless of cabin or status.
Within 60 days, the change fee will actually increase to $125 for most passengers. But hopefully you know by then what your plans are. More than 60 days out you can be speculative — for example, book a ticket to Hawaii as soon as you see a good fare, even before you ask you boss for time off. Passengers traveling in paid first class or who are MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members will still have this fee waived as before.
This is a really customer-friendly move since the airline has plenty of time to re-sell that seat. (The cheapest fares sometimes don’t expire until two or three weeks before departure, and Alaska is still making you give over eight weeks’ notice.) Increased fees for those who change later are never good, but they’re still lower than what most airlines impose.
Despite my headline, tickets are not quite refundable because the money goes back in the Travel Bank rather than your credit card. It’s a change/cancellation fee, and you have the flexibility to pick new flights at a later date. It’s still a very good deal for those who travel often enough that they have reasonable expectation they will be able to use the funds in the near future.
Checked Baggage Fees Increase
The first and second bags will cost $25 unless you have elite status or a first class ticket that includes free checked baggage. The third bag will cost $75. This policy applies to tickets purchased on or after October 30, which means even if you travel after the new policy goes into effect, tickets purchased earlier could still save you money.
Families with children or others who often find themselves with more baggage than they can reasonably carry on might benefit from making their reservations soon.
Cut-Off Time for Check In Increases
Those who wait to check-in for a domestic flight will need to do so at least 40 minutes before departure, an increase from the previous 30 minutes. This might be the most minor issue, but I know it can cause some people trouble when they try to delay things to the last minute or simply forgot to check in at home.
Most domestic carriers are pretty flexible. It sucks when they aren’t. Most recently, I remember traveling through Spain and checking in just under the wire. A guy arrived at the counter as I left and was turned away. Hopefully if you’re the kind of person who relies on Pre Check and priority boarding to show up at the airport 30 minutes before departure, you’re also the kind of person who checks in the night before.